It’s February. This is the time of the year when thoughts turn to love.
Given the turmoil and tension in the world, it’s important to turn toward love.
But what does turning toward love really mean when we’re facing big challenges?
Here’s what I’ve observed on the cushion and in my life:
When the mind is faced with challenges, obstacles and seemingly intractable or hopeless situations, the tendency is to turn away. To avert the gaze. To distract attention from the fierce reality of the situation.
Another tendency is to fight fire with fire. To push against what’s pushing you. To yell at the yellers. To point fingers at the finger-pointers.
Both of these tendencies are natural.
We’re wired for self-preservation. The primitive centers in our brains have well-grooved strategies of flight, fight and freeze.
It’s understandable that these instincts kick in when we’re up against something, but these deeply encoded patterns of our ancestral neurology aren’t designed to turn toward love.
Whether the context is your personal life or our collective situation, here’s what the wisdom traditions say: That thing that’s in your way—it’s love.
It doesn’t look like love, does it?
It looks like an obstacle. A mistake—a horrible mistake. I get that. I can open my Facebook feed and, in the blink of an eye, feel my body roiling with reactivity. My wife, Devi, can look at me with a particular tilt of her head, and my unprocessed emotional history can raise its head in a nano-second.
But let’s slow things down.
Instead of turning away, let’s be still, breathe and look deeper.
Let’s take the time to cultivate our capacity to remain present in the face of the pain, suffering and violence that abounds—to bear witness, and observe fully and compassionately.
Not to excuse things, but to be present and allow our vision to deepen. To see more deeply and clearly what fuels the violence and fear in the world.
Not to explain it. Not to defend or attack it. To see, to feel and to know it deeply.
This kind of clarity, in my experience, inevitably calls for a willingness to face the patterns of fear and violence that are still shaping my own perceptions.
The more fully, deeply and non-defensively I can feel into the patterns of reactivity in my own soul—to that degree, can I rest in the primary wholeness of my being.
Discovering the primary wholeness of my being reveals the hidden wholeness in others and the difficult situation that we are tangled up in together.
Thomas Merton, the great Catholic monk and mystic, wrote: “There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.”
To seek that hidden wholeness is to turn toward love.
To find it is to discover, again, in Merton’s words, “A silence that is a fountain of action and joy.”
Face the fire. Breathe.
Remember, that thing that’s in your way—whether you look within or outwardly—is the sacred energy. It is the radiant, generative presence of life in a wrathful disguise.
Don’t turn away.
Recognize and release the waves of reactivity.
Enter the silence that gives birth to wise action.
Turn toward love…with all the fierce gentleness that is required.
It’s time. We can’t afford to lose ourselves again.
Let’s turn toward love.
What does turning toward love mean to you? Share below.
Author: Eric Klein
Image: Author’s original illustration
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina